The phrase “long in the tooth” to signify old age came about for good reason; so make sure that your veteran equine has their teeth checked regularly, particularly as the seasons change. Keep an eye on their eating habits, as struggling with long stemmed forage can be a telltale sign of teeth problems; and watch out for quidding, when the horse drops their food whilst chewing.
Feeding the veteran horse little and often is ideal, providing a natural trickle feeding approach and ensuring the older horse or pony is not over-faced by a large quantity to eat. For horses of all ages, fibre should form the basis of the diet.
Provide your horse a good quantity of fibre, and if hay or haylage is more difficult to eat than it used to be, add short chop fibre to their diet or a fibre which can be soaked.
Weighing concentrate feed for the older horse is wise to monitor carefully how much they are getting to eat and in order to keep it consistent. The majority of older horses will benefit from a higher level of protein in the diet as protein provides the building blocks for tissue maintenance and repair. It is also essential they are provided the right amount of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals play a multitude of roles within the body including supporting the immune system, bone and teeth structure, benefiting eyesight and assisting nerve and muscle functioning. A good vitamin and mineral additive, such as our Horse & Pony Multi-vitamin Supplement should include all of the essential horse vitamins and minerals, providing equines with everything they need for health and well-being.
A common culprit of loss of condition in older horses is worm infestation, and while this is more common during the summer, a high worm count can have a greater effect at the end of winter, when horseshave been using more of the energy from their food to generate body heat.
Arthritis and other joint conditions that often accompany old age may have become more pronounced during winter, so ensure that you do everything you can to keep your horse moving comfortably and free from stiffness. Look out for joint supplements with high levels of Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid and Omega 3 to promote healthy mobile joints. I have previously written about the benefits of Green Lipped Mussel, a component in feed supplements that I believe also benefits joints.
Finally, risk-assess your fields and stable yard, to ensure that any obvious hazards are removed, and check your veteran horse’s limbs carefully on a daily basis too.
Peter Fishpool represents Scientific Nutritional Products.